Anti-war group attacks New Zealand spy base

Other News Materials 30 April 2008 11:23 (UTC +04:00)

Three anti-war protestors who launched a dawn attack on a New Zealand spy base on Wednesday, claiming it helped the United States war on terror, were remanded in custody when they appeared in court, news reports said.

The Blenheim court judge said the trio, which included 67-year-old Dominican Friar Peter Murnane, had to be held in prison because of the risk they would attack other military installations, Radio New Zealand said.

Murnane, Adrian Leason, 42, and Samuel Land, 24, who shouted "Pray for Iraq" in court, will appear again on Monday, dpa reported.

They were charged with criminal damage of a 30-metre high inflatable dome covering a giant satellite dish at the Waihopai base, near Blenheim, which is operated by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

New Zealand peace groups claim the base, set amid vineyards and olive groves near the top of the South Island, is part of Echelon, a worldwide network of signal interception facilities run by US and British intelligence agencies.

Local peace campaigners linked to a London-based group called Ploughshares, which promotes the cause of disarmament by disabling warplanes and military equipment, claimed responsibility for the attack on what was claimed to be one of New Zealand's most secure military installations.

GCSB director Bruce Ferguson admitted to Radio New Zealand that the trio had cut through three security fences, including an electrified one, to get to the dome before guards apprehended them. He said they had succeeded because a heavy fog blanketed the base.

A statement by the so-called Anzac Ploughshares said the base raiders slashed the inflatable dome - one of two giant white golf ball-like structures - with sickles and then "built a shrine and knelt in prayer to remember the people killed by United States military activity."

The statement said the attack was in response to the administration of US President George W Bush saying intelligence gathering was the most important tool in the war on global terrorism.

It added, "This war will have no end until citizens of the world refuse to let it continue.

"The Echelon spy network, including Waihopai, is an important part of the US government's global spy network and we have come in the name of the Prince of Peace to close it down."

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the government's security agency and consistently refuses to comment on any security matters, condemned the attack as a "senseless act of vandalism."